Ophelia

STEPHEN GIBSON

If she could see the future, would it matter?
Change things? She might say it would.
Cassandra could shout it, and she wouldn’t believe her.

There she is, all of twenty-two, dressed as Ophelia
floating down a river like a piece of wood —
if she could see the future, would it matter?

It’s a bath tub — and not the Hogsmill River
where tourists come to stand where Millais stood.
Cassandra could shout it, and she wouldn’t believe her.

She’ll overdose in ten years — after a stillborn daughter
and an unfaithful husband who’ll say he did all he could.
If she could see the future, would it matter?

Tourists take the tube to the Tate to see Ophelia —
asked if they could change the future, most would.
Cassandra could shout it, and no one would believe her.

The heat lamps are out: she doesn’t feel the icy water
because she’s young, high on laudanum, and life is good.
If she could see the future, would it matter?
Cassandra could shout it, and she wouldn’t believe her.


Stephen Gibson is the author of six poetry collections: The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press, 2016), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press, West Chester University), Paradise (Miller Williams finalist University of Arkansas Press, 2011), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize, 2010), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize, 2008), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen Press, 2001). His poetry has appeared in such journals as The Paris Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, The Texas Review, and The Yale Review.

First published in Measure, Volume 12, Issue 2 (2017)